Compiling a list of the world’s top 10 most endangered species is an inexact science. There are hundreds of animal species that are perilously close to extinction, and in some cases the numbers are so low that it is impossible to know how many of the animals still exist. This list reflects the species which conservationists are most concerned about.
10. The Little Dodo Bird
At this point some people are going to be looking a little puzzled – isn’t the dodo already extinct? The little dodo bird is actually a distant cousin of the dodo that most people are familiar with. It also goes by the name “tooth billed pigeon”.
There are believed to only be a few hundred little dodo birds left on two islands in Samoa. Its link with the famously extinct Mauritian dodo makes conservationists particularly keen to preserve this species.
9. Chinese Giant Salamander
The Chinese giant salamander is the largest amphibian on Earth, and can grow up to an impressive 6 feet. It was once extremely common throughout Southern and central China, but its popularity as a food source has led to greatly diminished numbers. It is impossible to know how many Chinese giant salamanders are left in the wild, but it is categorized as being critically endangered.
8. Amur Tiger
Weighing up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms), the Amur – or Siberian – tiger is the biggest of the large cats. The majority of tiger species inhabit jungle areas, but the Amur’s natural habitat is the snowy forests of far East Russia, and colder areas of Korea and China. Its endangered status is the result of over-hunting by humans.
The status of the Amur tiger is designated as “protected”, which has led to a slight rise in the number of animals found in the wild. But best estimates still only place the total population at around 500 tigers.
7. Leatherback Turtle
This type of sea turtle comes in at number 7 on the top 10 most endangered species list because of the alarming rate of decline in the wild population. At an estimated population of 25,000, its numbers are far greater than many of the other species in this top 10. But only 20 years ago the population was around 5 times greater.
This decline is attributed to illegal hunting and the problem with eggs being poached. There has also been a significant decline in its natural habitat, which is contributing to the issue.
6. Western Lowland Gorilla
The Western lowland gorilla is believed to have a wild population of approximately 100,000, but this represents a decline of over 60 percent in less than a quarter of a century. Worryingly, all indications are that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future.
In contrast to many of the world’s endangered species, mankind has not played a significant part in the species decline. While there are problems with loss of habitat and illegal hunting, the biggest danger to the population is the incurable ebola virus. In some isolated areas this viral infection has killed up to 90 percent of gorillas.
5. Northern Sportive Lemur
There are approximately 100 species of lemur on the island of Madagascar, and almost all of them are seeing a concerning drop in numbers due to habitat devastation. However, the Northern sportive lemur has been selected to feature in the top 10 most endangered species list because when researchers recently visited Madagascar, they estimated there are fewer than 20 left in the wild.
4. Northern Right Whale
There are a number of whale species that are giving conservationists cause for concern, but the most endangered is believed to be the Northern right whale (Eubalena Glacialis). The clue to its near extinction can be found in its name. In the early nineteenth century, when whales were commonly hunted to create whale oil, this species was believed to be the “right” type of whale to kill.
This species now has protected status, but there are still a number of threats that are causing numbers to fall further. This includes commercial fishing – as whales can become entangled in nets – and the decline of the crustaceans that form a large part of their diet.
3. Javan Rhinoceros
There are five species of rhinoceros – all endangered – but the Javan rhinoceros is the one closest to extinction. At most, there are believed to be 60 individuals left in their home environment on the Island of Java. Until recently, there were a small number left in Vietnam, but the last of the group were wiped out by poachers in 2012. Some natives still believe that rhino horns have magical properties that can be used in medicines.
Naturally, the Javan rhinoceros has been granted protected status. However, it is believed that they are now so few in number that extinction is inevitable.
2. Amur Leopard
There are many species of big cat that are classified as endangered. The Amur leopard (Panthera Pardus Orientalis) will almost certainly be the first of these to become extinct. This subspecies can only be found in the snowy forests of Eastern Russia. When researchers last conducted a census of the population, only 20 animals were found.
Their extinction is down to the destruction of their natural habitat. The forest has been devastated by logging and the demolishing of large areas to build roads and housing. There are also believed to be illegal poachers operating in the area.
1. Ivory Billed Woodpecker
You might not have heard of the ivory billed woodpecker, but it could well be the most endangered animal in the world. That is, if it is not already extinct.
This bird exists (or perhaps existed) in the Southeastern part of America, but 10 years ago it was believed to have become extinct. However, there are still occasional reports of sightings in Florida and Arkansas. Sadly, no definitive proof has been found that a population still exists.
In the next decade, the world is likely to lose dozens of species of animal to extinction. Action must be taken now to conserve at risk animals.